Louise Penny is one of my favorite authors and my mom and I were thrilled to see her speak in Pittsburgh last week. She was there as part of Authors on Tour, a collaborative effort between the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures series and the Carnegie Library.
Penny spoke for about 40 minutes and then did a question and answer session. She was funny and charming and really has a great stage presence. She talked about what made her want to write and about how long it took to put away her fear and just do it. And then the job of actually finishing the book and getting it published. She also mentioned that the “kernel” of each is a poem that she keeps on a sticky at her writing area. I haven’t read The Nature of the Beast, her newest, yet, but the poem that goes along with it is from Yeats: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”
Her Gamache mysteries are wonderful, and like she said, they’re not really about murder. She listed a whole batch of things they are about, but I didn’t get out my notebook and I’m not very quick at taking notes on my phone. Some of those I caught were friendship, fear, sorrow, bravery, redemption. She stressed the duality present in her stories; good and evil, people’s true selves and what they show the world, the beauty of nature and the fact that it can kill you.
We got a signed copy of the book with the ticket and for those who waited in the signing line after the talk, she personalized each one. She also spent a minute talking to every single person. Really, really an enjoyable evening.
Interestingly, some of Ruth Zardo’s poems are actually by Margaret Atwood, most from Morning in the Burned House, which I need to get a copy of. Then, I need to figure out a way to get the evening off to see Atwood, who is coming to Pittsburgh next month.